Louis MacNeice was in London during the Blitz and this poem captures the spirit of that time in masterly fashion as it shifts between the real and the semi-mythic, the defiant and the despairing, its cast of characters moving to the ballad tune in a brilliantly choreographed danse macabre.
Agag was a bibilical king referred in the book of Samuel as coming ‘delicately’ to his execution.
The Streets of Laredo
O early one morning I walked out like Agag,
Early one morning to walk through the fire
Dodging the pythons that leaked on the pavements
With tinkle of glasses and tangle of wire;
When grimed to the eyebrows I met an old fireman
Who looked at me wryly and thus did he say:
‘The streets of Laredo are closed to all traffic,
We won’t never master this joker to-day.
‘O hold the branch tightly and wield the axe brightly,
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